ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former Sen. Pete Domenici has disclosed that he fathered a secret child in the 1970s with the 24-year-old daughter of one of his Senate colleagues — a startling revelation for a politician with a reputation as an upstanding family man.
Domenici and Michelle Laxalt, daughter of former U.S. senator and Nevada governor Paul Laxalt, sent statements to the Albuquerque Journal that announced the relationship for the first time and identified their son as Nevada lawyer Adam Paul Laxalt. They said they decided to go public with their decades-old secret because they thought someone was about to release the information in an attempt to smear Domenici.
"I deeply regret this and am very sorry for my behavior," Domenici, 80, said in his statement. "I hope New Mexicans will view that my accomplishments for my beloved state outweigh my personal transgression."
Domenici, a Republican, was the longest-serving senator in New Mexico history when he retired following the 2008 election after six terms. He was known for his unflagging support of the state's national laboratories and military installations, and he became a power broker for his work on the federal budget and energy policy.
Domenici and his wife have been married for more than 50 years and have eight children. He said he disclosed the situation to his family several months ago.
"I have apologized as best as I can to my wife, and we have worked together to strengthen our relationship," Domenici said.
Michelle Laxalt became a prominent lobbyist, Republican activist and television commentator after the affair. "One night's mistake led to pregnancy more than 30 years ago," she said in the statement. She said she chose to raise her son as a single parent and that she and Domenici agreed it would be a private matter.
Domenici is the latest in a long line of politicians forced to reveal secret children, from one-time Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards to former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.